Venue: Roxbury Hotel (Glebe NSW), Aug 22 – 30, 2014
Playwright: John Patrick Shanley
Director: Fiona Hallenan-Barker
Music: Ed Gain
Cast: Wade Doolan, Karli Evans
Love and human connection are sacred. They come easily to some, but remain elusive to others. John Patrick Shanley’s Danny And The Deep Blue Sea shows us two downtrodden souls Roberta and Danny, both desperate and lonely. We witness their efforts at discovering a life beyond their personal darkness, commencing with a chance meeting at a depressed bar in the middle of a poor Bronx neighbourhood. They find hints of contact, but each meaningful moment perishes, and every brief instant of radiance dissolves back into gloom.
The production is staged in a makeshift theatre at the Roxbury Hotel, located just outside of Sydney city. The space is quartered, so that performances take place along two channels that intersect in the room’s centre. It is an unusual location, so it makes good sense to resist creating a conventional proscenium aspect, but the actors’ faces are often obscured and losing that precious perspective is disappointing. Fortunately, both actors Karli Evans and Wade Doolan, are intense and focused, and they conspire with the venue’s intimacy to manufacture a beautifully transportative experience that takes us to spheres of secrecy and revelation.
Evans and Doolan are individually captivating, and their chemistry is excellent. Scenes of conflict later in the piece are dynamic and daunting at close range, but less effective are earlier sections that require a lighter, more humorous touch to allow greater identification from the audience. Their stories are dark, and we need to be invited into their worlds with a little more warmth. There probably will always be a sense of alienation to this story, but it needs to capture our emotions more firmly at the start before it unleashes its tumultuous dramatics.
Tales of hope and salvation are important for art and the society to which it belongs. Artists find inspiration, so that they can themselves provide inspiration to their public. Roberta and Danny represent the sadness and regret that persist in our lives, but more significant is the unexpected bravery that surfaces from their interaction. Who knows what it truly means to love, but when two people collide and engender a wonderful joy that had been hitherto impossible, that phenomenon feels quite a bit like magic.